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BIOL 5503: Research Methods

Peer Review

The purpose of journal articles is for researchers to share the findings of the studies or experiments they have performed. The point of academic journals is to give researchers a place to publish their research.

In the past, researchers would often fabricate findings or use weak experiment design in order to support false claims or discoveries. 

In order to detect weak studies and publish only strong studies with significant findings, journals began implementing a peer review process. In peer-reviewed journals, each article that’s submitted to the journal gets reviewed by two or three other experts in that field of study. The peer reviewers are looking at many things, including the validity and strength of the findings.


Why does peer review matter?

Articles with weak studies or false findings still get published from time to time, but it is much less frequent thanks to peer review.

Graduate and professionals researchers should be careful to use peer-reviewed journal articles as evidence for certain claims and decision making. Including poor quality sources and articles in your own dissertation or professional research articles can make peer reviewers doubt the credibility of your work.

It’s important that you can differentiate between a peer-reviewed article and an article that is not peer-reviewed.


How to Tell If It's Peer Reviewed

In most cases, the article is peer-reviewed if:

  1. You found the article through the library website.
  2. The article has a references list at the end (usually 5 references or more).

Tip: Beware of predatory journals! There are many fake journals that claim they're peer-reviewed but actually are not. These journals prey on researchers who are desperate to publish their work and are willing to pay a fee to a journal for publication. To avoid predatory journals, only use library resources and databases to search. If you can't find a specific journal on the library website, it might be a predatory journal. Check with your librarian to find out for sure.

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